Assesses the interaction of 19th-century Russian missionaries with three indigenous groups—the Chukchi and Altaians in Siberia and the Dena'ina Indians in Alaska—and examines the relationships as a dialogue about spiritual, political, and ideological power.
The interaction of 19th-century Russian missionaries with three indigenous groups, the Chukchi and Altaians in Siberia and the Dena'ina Indians in Alaska, resulted in widely different outcomes. The Chukchi disregarded the missionary message, the Dena'ina embraced Christianity, and the Altaians responded by selectively borrowing from Orthodox religion. Znamenski—in the first work of its kind in English—argues that the relationships between indigenous shamanism and Orthodox missionaries in Siberia and Alaska were essentially a dialogue about spiritual, political, and ideological power, and challenges both the widespread conviction that Christian missionaries always acted as agents of colonial oppression among tribal peoples and the notion that native peoples maintained their pristine traditional cultures despite years of interaction with Western society.
Znamenski asserts that Russian missionary policy toward indigenous peoples was, at best, ambivalent and cannot be described as either Russification or a broad tolerance of native cultures. After two broad introductory chapters, he deals with each indigenous people in a separate section, illustrating the ways in which native Siberians and Alaskans acted as active players, welcoming, adopting, rejecting, or reinterpreting elements of Christianity depending upon surrounding circumstances and individual cultural stances.
Preface Introduction Indigenous Landscapes Missionary Landscapes in Siberia and Alaska Russian Orthodoxy Becomes a Native Faith: Dena'ina Encounters with Orthodox Missionaries, 1844-1917 "Unresponsive Natives": The Chukchi Dialogue with the Russian Mission, 1840s-1917 Dialogues about Spirit and Power: Altaian Natives and Russian Orthodox Mission, 1830-1917 Conclusion Glossary Bibliography Index
Reviews ^IShamanism and Christianity^R is an accessible, engaging, and authoritative contribution to the historical and ethnographic literature of imperial Russia's Siberian and North American territories. It can be recommended to specialists and students of religion and nationality issues, past and present.—Slavic Review
Znamenski's strength is the rich detail of his historical profiles. He has yielded the gold of missionary and indigenous voices, bringing shamans, native and mixed blood priests, teachers, and translators to life. This book is an excellent contribution to the history and historiography of Siberia and Alaska.—American Historical Review